Keeping Bees in Maine – Put to bed for the winter

Our two hives struggled this summer with a swarm, mites and robbing each other of honey, yet they still managed in their first summer to draw comb for two hives, both with two deeps (the lower boxes) and one super (the upper box.)  While we were able to harvest only a disappointing pint… total, it was lovely to have them around, keeping us company in the garden and busily fertilizing everything.

There are a few things I’ve learn over one summer of bees:

  1. Keeping bees is like having a garden – hope springs eternal for the imagined harvest in the following year.
  2. I’ve found the surest way to the most expensive eggs (owning my own chickens) and now the most expensive honey.
  3. Perhaps when one first picks up their hives, one might want to think about a car with a trunk rather than a hatchback.

The white hive when it first arrived in the spring with only one deep.

Checking the white hive one month in.

The undulating swarm which landed in our apple trees.  We weren’t able to capture it, just as the third hive was on it’s way, the bees’ inner wisdom suggested they flee to greener apple trees.

Feeding the bees in preparation for a long Maine winter.

The ladies of the purple hive.

Bye for now, ladies, we’ll see you in the spring!

Raising Honey Bees – The Bees Have Arrived!

The air was still shaking off the sharp, crisp tang of an early spring morning when we left with our deep in the back of Joe’s Subaru to receive our first nuc from Humble Abode in Cooper’s Mills, Maine.  The drive through lime and kelly green farm country and past fields of dewy grass took about 45 minutes.  (This number will be significant later in the story. )

Joe, husband to the resident gardener extraordinaire, Rebecca, will be tending two hives on our property.  One for the Riggin and one for their family.  We’ve found just the right spot on our property, tucked on the edge of the apple trees with most of the days sun beckoning the bees to explore and pollinate.

Joe has gone to bee school.  I have not.  Joe knows and remembers that the bees are attracted to shampoo and cosmetics.  I do not.  Joe has learned about how not to get stung.  I have not.

Once we were on the property surrounded by  a sea of boxes and boxes of bees containing five frames each, my naive excitement took over as I inched closer and closer to the bee tenders as they, with their bare hands remove the frames from their boxes into the deeps (the box we would bring home).

And then the bees found me as, one after one, they got tangled in my hair.  After the sixth one, I was no where near close enough to make any more pictures and I was not as calm as I’d wish.  And then, the beekeeper puts the deep into Joe’s Subaru.  Wagon.  Without a trunk.  And oh by the way, there are bees buzzing all around, and not just in the boxes.

My life for the next 45 minutes is becoming more clear and I ask for the net please.  We drive all the way home with me in my net and the bees behaving themselves in the back of the car.  I didn’t want to chance that they would get a big whiff of my hair should I remove the net.  And I must admit, I had a rolled up newspaper in my hands the whole way home.

The sea of bee boxes.

The smoker that the bee keepers use to keep the bees calm.

The comb on the lid shows the bees have been active in this hive.

Scraping off comb on top of the frames so they fit into their new deep.

Frames going into our deep.  The frames are black with bees.

The bees are now safely tucked in and the next nuc is scheduled to come the middle of the week.

Not as tough as I thought I was!

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